As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Premier League many will have fond memories of some glorious football played over the past quarter of a century.
from Gianfranco Zola to Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona to Dennis Bergkamp and David Ginola to Tony Yeboah, the league has seen many outstanding individuals in exciting teams which have gone on to achieve success even against all the odds, such as that which Claudio Ranieri and his underdog Leicester City side achieved the season before last.
From Alan Hansen’s famous quote: ‘You’ll win nothing with kids,’ the arrival of Jose Mourinho as the ‘Special One’ in 2004, Blackburn Rovers’ triumph in 1995 and Steven Gerrard slipping as Chelsea dealt a cruel blow to Liverpool’s title ambitions in 2014, the Premier League has been the gift that keeps on giving.
While it is difficult to narrow it down to just five best moments, as the new season kicks off this weekend we take a look at what we believe are the five best moments from the past 25 years of Premier League football.
5. Arsenal: The Invincible Season (2003/04)
Not exactly just one moment, but we can’t complete this list without including this incredible feat.
While Arsene Wenger may be getting stick from certain sections of the Arsenal support these days, the class of 2003/04 earned rave reviews as they went the entire season unbeaten and earned the nickname ‘The Invincibles’.
A record of 26 wins and twelve draws out of 38 games saw Arsenal claim Wenger’s third Premier League trophy with a team that boasted stars such as Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Dennis Bergkamp, Freddie Ljungberg and Patrick Vieira to name but a few.
Arsenal started the season strongly and topped the table early on never looking back. Chelsea were just starting to find their feet under new owner Roman Abramovich who appointed Jose Mourinho to the helm the year after when a new era was born.
However, ‘The Invincibles’ produced some of the best football the Premier League has ever seen and it was a shame they could not carry it into the following season. Arsenal’s top goalscorer for the third year running was Henry, who scored 39 goals in 51 games in all competitions while also picking up the coveted PFA Player of the Year award, ensuring his status as one of the league’s all-time greats.
The club was awarded a golden replica trophy by the Premier League once the season ended and they even went on to remain unbeaten for 49 games in total, setting a new record.
Wenger has not won the title since that famous run as Chelsea and the Manchester clubs have since dominated, joined briefly by Leicester City in 2016.
4. Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle United (1996)
The Premier League has produced some great performances and some games always guaranteed you goals, no more so than when Liverpool and Newcastle met. Their meeting on April 3, 1996 will live long in the memory of fans of the Premier League as a seven-goal thriller was played out at Anfield and could arguably go down as the greatest game the league has produced as Kevin Keegan and Roy Evans battled it out for a crucial three points.
Prolific striker Stan Collymore scored a sensational stoppage time winner to send the Kop into hysterics as Liverpool overcame a shell-shocked Newcastle. Both sides were hoping to catch Manchester United in the race for the title meaning a point was of little use to either side. Les Ferdinand had cancelled out Robbie Fowler’s opening goal to draw the match level before Frenchman David Ginola put the Magpies ahead in the 14th minute. The second half saw Fowler and Faustino Asprilla swap goals before Collymore levelled things for Liverpool in the 68th minute.
Both teams looked to be handing the advantage to Manchester United before Collymore struck once again in the second minute of stoppage time in what will forever be regarded as one of the greatest ever games in Premier League history.
3. Kevin Keegan: “I Will Love It If We Beat Them” (1995/96)
Certainly one of the most famous quotes in Premier League history from the then Newcastle United manager as he found himself embroiled in a battle of mind games with Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Like Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez in later years, Kevin Keegan found himself and his Newcastle United side in a battle for the Premier League title in the 1995/96 season where the clash between the managers was just as crucial as the on-field performances. Keegan, however, ultimately lost this encounter.
Newcastle were twelve points clear at one point in the title race but gradually threw away their lead and, after a vital win over Leeds United in front of the Sky cameras, Keegan went on a rant aimed about his rival that will live long in the memory.
Ferguson has suggested that teams tried harder to beat Manchester United than Newcastle United in a comment that riled Keegan and he ultimately lost his cool in front of the watching public. Twitter would have exploded had it existed.
Ferguson had seen off yet another rival in that moment.
2. Aguerooooooooo!!! (2012)
Manchester United fans look away now.
Sergio Aguero’s 2012 title-winner for the blue half of Manchester, as the red side watched on in disbelief, will go down as one of the most dramatic ends to a season ever. Ferguson’s men suffered a late injury time blow that they had dished out many times before as they watched helplessly at the Stadium of Light having beaten Sunderland and done all they could do.
The Argentine’s late strike ensured Manchester City claimed their first title in 44 years – made even more sweeter by snatching it from the grasp of their fiercest rivals. The blow was even crueler for Manchester United with City netting twice in injury time as Queens Park Rangers crumbled.
It was a day that saw the red and blue side of Manchester go through every emotion imaginable and once again highlighted why the Premier League is regarded as the best in the world.
1. Leicester City Complete The Impossible (2015/16)
Even typing the words ‘Leicester City: Premier League champions’ seems strange but the 2015/16 saw one of the top flight’s most remarkable achievements when Chelsea reject Ranieri defied all odds and led the Foxes to Premier League glory.
It was no fluke and talk of a fairytale is disrespectful to Ranieri and his men. They achieved the impossible through hard work and togetherness while sending out a message to the rest of the league that the title doesn’t always have to go to the so-called top teams.
It also raised questions for the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal who have thrown vast amounts of money at trying to win the league coming up short when Leicester went and won it on a much smaller budget with a squad of players, which featured many who had been rejected by bigger clubs.
Sure, many will point to the fact that Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs were off the boil, yet any team that wins the Premier league over a gruelling nine months fully deserves all the accolades that duly followed.
As regards the best moments in Premier League history you cannot look further than the story of Leicester City, a story we may never see the likes of again.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena